14 English Words That Have Malay Origins

They aren't obvious either.

English is widely known to be a borrowed language

This means that many of its words were derived or "adopted" from other languages.

And you'd be surprised to know just how many of those words actually have its origins rooted in Malay!

Note: All etymologies and facts below were obtained from A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, The World Atlas Of Language And Structures Online, The Online Etymology Dictionary and Collins Dictionary.

Here are 14 English words that have Malay origins:

1. Tea

Image via Equal Exchange

Most words for "tea" in each language were ultimately of Chinese origin but differ based on their coming of different routes.

Before "tea" became the dominant term, the popular beverage was mainly known as chaa, derived from the Portuguese chá. Chá was likely derived from the Mandarin ch'a.

Its new form which is now more common in modern English is derived from the Malay teh. Teh was, in turn, a derivation from the word t'e, from the Amoy Hokkien dialect.

2. Paddy

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The word "paddy" is derived from the Malay word padi, which means "rice in the straw". Its first known use was in 1623.

3. Compound

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A compound refers to any fenced or walled area that contains a group of buildings or residences.

It was first used in 1679 and was derived from the Dutch kampoeng which in turn was derived from the Malay kampong.

4. Launch (boat)

A launch is an open motorboat. It was used mainly during the Second World War by the United Kingdom's Royal Navy to defend the coast against submarines.

The first known use of the word "launch" was in 1967, likely derived from the Portugese lancha which in turn was derived from the Malay lancharan. The boat was called lancharan in Malay since its root word lanchar referred to a fast and gliding action.

5. Rattan

Rattan is derived from the Malay word rotan which in turn is derived from raut, which means "to trim or strip".

6. Cootie

A cootie refers to a head louse. It is a small insect that lives in people's hair. Its use was popularised in 1917 and was derived from the Malay word kutu.

7. Ketchup

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While Malaysians usually refer to it as "tomato sauce", "ketchup" is the dominant term in American English.

The word "ketchup" was derived from the Malay kĕchap, a term used to refer to a sauce Chinese traders brought to Melaka centuries ago. Kĕchap was in turn derived from the Cantonese ke-tsiap.

8. Amok

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The phrase "running amok" means for someone to be out of control, especially when they're armed and dangerous.

It was adopted into English from the Portuguese amouco which in turn originated from the Malay amok. Back then, the word "amok" was associated with individuals (often men) who went into a frenzy, carrying a weapon trying to either kill or seriously injure anyone in their path. These "amok" episodes were a common occurence in the older days of Malaya.

9. Caddy

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A caddy is a small box that is usually used to keep tea. It was derived from the word "catty" which in turn was derived from the Malay kati.

Both "catty" and "kati" referred to a unit of weight equivalent to 0.61kg. Its first known use was in 1792.

10. Gong

Gong, referring to the Chinese instrument, was derived from the Malay gong and was first used in 1590.

Malays called the instrument "gong" to replicate the sound it makes.

11. Cockatoo

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A cockatoo is a type of parrot. The word's first known use was in 1634 and stemmed from the Dutch kaketoe which in turn was derived from the Malay kakatua.

12. Japan

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The English word for Japan stems from the Portuguese Japao which was derived from the Malay Japang, the language's old word for Japan. Malays likely derived Japang from the Chinese jih pun.

It is thought that Portuguese traders who encountered the word in 16th century Melaka were the first to bring the word to Europe. Its first use in English was in 1577 and was spelled as "Giapan".

13. Bamboo

The word "bamboo" is derived from the Dutch word bamboes. Bamboes originated from the Malay mambu, which was its old word for bamboo.

14. Gecko

A gecko is a small lizard found mostly in areas with warm climates.

The word first came into use in 1774 and was derived from the Malay gekok. It was called gekok to imitate the sound of the animal's cry.

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